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City Council bans marijuana facilities, public use

Alexander Sinn • Nov 23, 2018 at 7:00 AM

Less than two weeks after all precincts in the city of Grand Haven voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana Nov. 6, the City Council voted to ban facilities from the city limits.

The decision on Monday was in step with the majority of municipalities in Ottawa County, where the state ballot initiative was not supported by the majority of voters.

The City Council approved two emergency ordinances to amend articles to the city’s code to prohibit the sale of marijuana and use in public places. Medical marijuana facilities are already banned in the city.

In two split votes, the council struck a section of the public-use amendment that would have permitted smoking marijuana at approved public events. The amendment prohibits public use of marijuana in all cases.

Councilman Dennis Scott said the code should not be treated exactly like alcohol, as second-hand smoke presents a unique challenge for enforcement.

“It’s not like alcohol,” he said. “If you’re smoking it, the next person gets it, too.”

Mayor Geri McCaleb likened the public use of marijuana to fireworks for its impact on people who have not chosen to participate. 

Fifty-five percent of city voters were in favor of the ballot initiative, noted Councilman Bob Monetza, who voted against a resolution in October urging voters to say “no” to Proposal 1. He agreed with the city’s precautionary stance toward the new industry, but said the question can be reopened by City Council once the laws are sorted out by the state Legislature.

“I hope that this public debate continues,” Monetza said.

The mayor said ballot initiatives do not always lead to good policy, and the amendments protect the community from unforeseen consequences. 

“That’s why we have a Legislature, so that they can debate and make law instead of somebody gleaning whatever signatures they need from four or five counties and having it affect the whole state,” she said. “It’s easy to sign a petition without thinking about the ramifications of what you’re saying yes to.”

Municipalities have several options when it comes to allowing facilities, from an outright ban to limiting the number of licenses and limiting facilities to specific zones. 

The actions do not ban the possession, use or transportation of marijuana, which are expected to become legal statewide on Dec. 6. Individuals who are 21 and older will be able to carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower and 15 grams of concentrate, keep up to 10 ounces at home, and grow up to 12 plants.

Councilman Josh Brugger said the council in the future could easily consider reversing or altering these decisions with a 3-2 vote. 

“Given that the ink is still drying on this and the Legislature hasn’t figured it out yet, I’m fine with a more restrictive process at this time,” he said.

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